Tom

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive,
but in finding something to live for.”
from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

In my thirties — when I went through my Dostoevsky period — that quotation would have taken my breath. I would have questioned what I was doing, spun into a life-examining journal writing frenzy about it. I think, in fact, I did that, over that very quotation.

But now, my children (ha ha) I’m not the same person. I KNOW what I lived for and it’s the same thing I’m living for now.

Long ago, back in Denver, during another presidential election, I worked hard for an independent candidate. I wrote speeches, TV ads, organized events. It was fun and I believed in him. He didn’t win, but his campaign garnered 10% of the vote in Colorado. One of the events I planned was an expensive fund-raising dinner at an elegant Indian restaurant called, appropriately, The Bombay. Entertainment for that evening was a popular Denver jazz band featuring a fantastic saxophone player named Tom. It was an elegant and successful evening.

Back then I was well on my way to being a ‘mover and a shaker’ in Denver, and I knew Tom pretty well.

Time passed — two and a half years. I went to China, and I came back. Four months after the return, I was emotionally evacuated. I was homesick for China. I had also realized that my husband didn’t like me. I’d come back to the states because he was sick and I shouldn’t have. My beautiful dream was over and I was left with a bad marriage.

I walked down to the King Soopers nearest our Capitol Hill Apartment to buy stuff for supper. It had begun to snow. Outside the store a man in a wheelchair was playing the saxophone for tips. I got closer and saw it was Tom. I sat down on a bench to talk to him.

“Where you been, lady?” he asked.

“China. I went to China to teach.”

“China?”

“Yeah.” How did I ask the question without hurting Tom? Finally, “What happened?”

“Oh, babe, you won’t believe it. I got the flu.”

“The flu??”

Tom chuckled at the amazement in my voice. “I know. It don’t make sense. It attacked my spine. I was flat on my back, for six months, paralyzed. They said I’d never walk or play the saxophone again, but, a man gotta’ eat and a man’s gotta’ play, right?”

My heart was in my throat.

“I could live without walking, but, honey, I wasn’t living without my sax.” He gently pressed the keys and levers on the shining instrument. I knew how he felt about it. It was both his livelihood and his life.

Just then a young woman I’d worked with some years before approached the door. “Martha? My god! It’s been forever!!! What are you doing these days?”

Tom looked at me and saw I was about to cry. I was but at this moment I don’t know exactly why. There were plenty of reasons in that cold early-winter Denver moment.

Tom answered. “She’s livin’. She’s jus’ livin’. That’s all any of us do and if you think otherwise, you’re wrong.”

After that, I knew the goal of my life was to live. To live for life itself. It’s not so easy, either.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/03/15/rdp-sunday-something/

É Quanta Nostalgia…

I love Denver. I was born in Denver. I lived there until I was 8 and returned to Denver at least twice a year to visit my Aunt Martha when I was a kid. When we moved back to Colorado, I took every opportunity I could to stay with my Aunt Martha in her apartment in Capitol Hill in Denver. I moved to Denver for college, left for three years to study in Boulder and returned to Denver. Denver was my home and also the world from which I fledged.

I also hated Denver. It was small. The world I wanted was so much larger and I wanted it so badly that I had to get out of there. I left for good in 1984 and didn’t return often. But it was always Denver whether I wanted to go there or not, and as long as my Aunt Martha lived there, I had a reason to return.

I haven’t really been back since I returned to Colorado five years ago. I have had a couple of peripheral jaunts to the general area, but not to see the personal sites that are engraved on my heart, places where I lived, where my family lived, streets that were my home streets. For some reason Denver felt like an alien place and I didn’t feel welcome there. I don’t know why. It had changed? Of course it changed, and somehow it felt like a betrayal (as if I had not changed? Ha ha)

So, having arranged to have lunch with a very old friend and his awesome wife, having found a spot on Colfax (America’s Main Street) that looked like a good spot, and The Who having cancelled and the whole trip suddenly becoming much simpler, my friend Lois and I went up there today.

We didn’t take the freeway (which Coloradans call “the Interstate”) we took the old back roads and our drive was peaceful and beautiful. We arrived at the suburban periphery and I began to recognize landscapes, though now covered with houses. Lois was subjected to a lot of that, “This used to be” and “We used to go” and all that stuff we humans do in the throes of nostalgia, and she was patient.

I still know Denver. It’s still Denver. I drove to my places as if I had never stopped driving to them, routes as familiar to me as the palm of my hand.

I have a lot to process and cannot write well about it yet, but we went past many of my old apartment buildings and my Aunt’s townhome and saw Mt. Evans and had lunch on a street that really defies description, still. I’ll probably write a post sometime about Sundays on Colfax, but not now.

Some of you might know Denver as a city where Kerouac hung out with Neal Cassady and on the building where we had lunch was a mural of Jack and Neal. It reminded me of a mural that used to be on one of the outside walls of City Lights Bookstore in North Beach in San Francisco. So… Colfax is mentioned in On the Road.

“I pictured myself in a Denver bar that night, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was ‘Wow!”

― Jack Kerouac, On the Road

I used to walk to work every day (because, you know, air pollution and global warming and stuff) and every day I passed the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. But back then I didn’t enter Catholic Churches.

It happened that today the church was right across the street from our restaurant and after eating, we all went into the cathedral which was an oasis of cleanliness, peace, light and gentle baroque music on that strange dingy street that is Colfax on Capitol Hill. I thought to myself how much life has passed since the days I walked home past this church without ever entering and how now, among other experiences including writing about Catholicism in a very friendly way, I have heard mass in Latin at the Basilica San Ambrogio in Milan.

It turns out that the first Monsignor of the church was originally from Milan and educated in Switzerland. My friend’s wife brought this to my attention and I felt a chill, as if a circle had closed and I could not have entered that building before that moment.

And then I thought of how we begin — how I began — and decided a life spent overturning biases and ignorance is a pretty good life. And it’s a pretty good life that allows you to return with your sister/friend down country roads to visit your deepest personal roots on a sunny Sunday. To have lunch with a man you’ve known for 52 years and his soul mate, all wrapped up in the city of your heart.

Life’s Urgent Urinal

When I was a young woman in Denver aspiring to be an artist I spent a lot of time at Muddy Waters of the Platte, a coffeehouse, bookstore, a stage and small auditorium for performing and life drawing models. In the ladies room was written, in red nail polish,

Pee Here Now

There was also a little litany of philosopher misquotes that I also enjoyed.

To do is to be, Descartes.
To be is to do, Sartre.
Do be do be do, Sinatra

It was a great bathroom with walls that were constantly edited, but it has gone the way of the Dodo, just one of the numerous ways Denver has betrayed me, that whore. Muddy’s corresponded with my “time” — it opened in 1975 and closed in 1985. I first visited it in 1976 and left Denver in 1984. ❤

The ability to “pee here now” is a big deal, actually, and not easy. I can honestly say that, since those days — which I remember with a distinctly rosy glow — to some extent, I’ve mastered it. I must thank my 25+ furry gurus and my father who the whole time I knew him was dying of Multiple Sclerosis slowly, visibly and with constant narration. He wanted me to learn THE LESSON at an early age. I did, too. I think it’s partly why I never had a lot of ambition and never conformed enough to get some of the things that would have registered as “success.”

Success in a conventional sense requires compromising with the TRUTH which is, “Holy shit! I’m going to DIE! I’d better carpe the diem!”

One of the first pieces of literature my dad shared with me (and I was not yet in second grade) was this which I heard sitting on my dad’s knee. My dad read it with passion and feeling.

Jaques to Duke Senior
                   
                          
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

(Shakespeare, As You Like It)

It made no sense at all any more than this did, which I also heard on my father’s knee:

The Moving Finger writes and having writ,
Moves on; nor all your piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears blot out a word of it.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

It’s just not all that easy NOT to think about the next thing and pee here now.

For me it has been an evolution, in spite of my intellectual understanding.

Back then in the busy, driven times of holding up the sky, fifteen minutes into a hike, teaching problems vanished, unrequited love? Well that took a little longer to retreat into the distance, but it went. When there was nothing left but the feeling of wind on my skin, the fragrance of black and white sage, dust, the screech of hawks, the magic sighting of an owl. I had learned to “Pee here now” at least for those wondrous moments.

I really understood the lesson when the economy went south in 2008. I worked and drove most of the the time I was not asleep. I REALLY had almost no time to myself and most of what I had was in the car driving 30 – 45 miles from school to home, from home to school. When I started wanting more time of my own, and was teaching at 7 am, I started getting up at 4 just to have two hours to live in that moment. I wrote, sometimes a blog, sometimes I just chilled with my dogs and savored my coffee. I could leave home early and witness the beauty of wild turkeys on the edges of the woods, listen to music in my car and not worry that maybe I’d be slowed down on the freeway.

I was evolving into a retired person.

Having been one for five years, I now understand what that means to me. It means I do not have to think about the next thing. I lived under the stress of tight schedules, the next place, the expectations of others for so long. Until I stopped, I didn’t know how much it cost me or how dishonest (though necessary $$$$) it was.

I have a very precious friend who is constantly busy and consumed with — or at least thinking about — about the next thing she has to do. I have studied her for a while now, and I think that’s her way of accounting to herself for her days, her life. I have never known her to be completely in the moment except a couple of times we were on a trail together.

This isn’t a judgment; we’re all different. But unlike my friend, I feel claustrophobia when I have too much scheduled, too many obligations, too much expected of me. I want the leisure to savor a conversation with a kid or a neighbor or my dogs. I also want time alone to enjoy my own thoughts.

I’ve learned a lot from Bear and her approach to life, that and the last few years of slow walking with a fucked up hip joint. That all really changed the world for me and helped me narrow things down to what I really care about (Langlauf, dogs, the mountains, my books, friends). Then, since a week ago when I had the near death moment on the highway, the question of this moment and its meaning has intensified, reminding me that there isn’t anything else in life but this moment. My feet and eyes carry me through time, and it’s not my job to arrive anywhere because there is no where to go. There are only things to see, feel, experience. Savor. Only now.


Featured Photo: “Ten Long-Gone Denver Institutions” Westword


 

Back In the Day when Friday Mattered

image_562865130981913

Friday was a big deal back in the day. Not so much when I was teaching — teaching college and university writing is a 7 day/week job — but when I was living the clerical life as a paralegal at a large Denver law firm, the very one started by Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch’ grandfather. The name was Gorsuch, Kirgis, Campbell, Walker and Grover. Try saying that very fast on the phone with marbles in your mouth.

Friday could mean a dash across the street to a restaurant known as The Broker for all you can eat peel and eat shrimp with my friend Eve, who was a young attorney, her husband, an accountant and his accountant buddies. It involved lots of shrimp, lots of booze and lots of laughing. Then I walked home to my efficiency apartment on Humboldt Street. It was in one of those faux Spanish buildings built in the 70s with lots of faux wrought iron and faux plaster in the hallways, so over-the-top it looked like bat guano.

One Friday afternoon walking home from work, I noticed an apartment building I had always liked had a for rent sign in the window. I went in, talked to the manager, got the apartment. It was more money and more space (it was a one bedroom!) than my efficiency and I had no furniture, but I loved it. My house in Monte Vista is very similar. Still faux Spanish (what is this, a theme?) but less faux, if that makes sense. The building (The Dalton) has a lot of history and is now owned by a company. If you Google “The Dalton, Denver”, you can see my actual apartment. Fancified and so on for these modern times, but…

In that apartment I made a lot of art — paintings and linoleum cuts. I wrote stories, too. I had dinner guests and held a couple of parties, but usually Friday nights were MINE. I loved living there. It felt like a haven of “Martha” in the vast sea of people making money and getting married. I wasn’t doing either. I chronicled one of those Friday nights with my Kodak 35 mm. By the time I was doing linoleum cuts (inspired by those done by Picasso I saw at the National Gallery in DC when I went for the second part of the Foreign Service Test [which I failed])  I had taken apart my bed, rolled up the futon and set it against the wall. Someone had given me a daybed and I converted my bedroom into a studio because I needed the space to lay out the prints to dry.

Says something about priorities, I guess.

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/02/rdp-friday-friday/

Relate!

Long, long ago in a faraway land known as Denver, Colorado, I loved a beautiful man and he loved me. He was brilliant, funny, irreverent, sophisticated — and primarily gay. He had nice parents, too. His mother was a teacher and his dad a shrink, both lived in Gary, Indiana.

I know you’re singing from The Music Man, now. I can hear you, “Gary Indiana, Gary Indiana, la la,” but please don’t let YOUR singing imply that Peter fit the gay stereotype of loving musical comedy. He didn’t. Still and all, this quotation from the musical says a lot about our lives at the time, “Never let the demands of tomorrow, interfere with the pleasures of today.”

I got to know his father quite well because he often came to visit.

Naturally, as Peter and I were extremely cool and intellectual young people, we lived on Capital Hill. My apartment at the time had a nice pool and sauna. It was a basic 1960s/70s apartment in the faux Spanish style. The stucco on the ceilings in the lobby and hallway was often compared to bat guano, as in, “Why didn’t you open the door? You buzzed me in. You knew I was here, but instead you left me standing out here under the bat guano,” but otherwise it was pretty nondescript. I had a large efficiency apartment with built in bed/sofas. One end of the apartment was a floor to ceiling window looking out on the parking lot. Across the alley and a row of houses, I could see my boyfriend’s apartment, the top floor in a 3 story turn of the century (19th to 20th) converted family home.

One evening, after supper, we all went for a swim. It was the first time I’d met Peter’s father. There was a camera involved — odd because that ONLY happened once. Peter stood on the edge of the pool trying to get both swimmers (heads mostly underwater) into the frame. To do this he yelled, “Relate! Relate!”

I still think that is hilarious.

***

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/relate/

Youth, the Law Firm, Change, Nostalgia

Everything attached to those moments has an air of sanctity — I feel it. I stand in the marble-walled hallway between floors of the old bank building that houses the law firm where I just started working. I’m wearing a wool suit in shades not unlike the color of Monument Valley (where I had not yet been); not pure wool (too hot, too expensive) and a shirt that coordinates (pale peach). I don’t know what I’m doing. They’ve sent me downstairs to the law library to research something about Antelope Island. An oil company wants to exert eminent domain (I don’t know what that is, either) and I’m supposed to find precedents for that not happening. I think, oddly, we’re litigating on behalf of the downtrodden and the environment. Weird.

I’m here (though I don’t know it) because the son of a judge who recommended me is the favorite son of the partners and THEY think the judge’s son’s recommendation means the judge’s son and I are lovers. They want the judge’ good will; they think he’ll give favorable decisions to his son. He’s not the only son of a judge working there, either.

We’re not lovers. We’re friends.

They want to make the judge’s son happy, but he really couldn’t care less. When the firm learns this, they regret their decision to hire this MA in English, but over time, it works out. In my naivete, I don’t realize how much of the world is actually controlled by 1) men, 2) connections and 3) sex.

I have a long way to go in life, and for some reason I apprehend that fact in a few moments on those marble steps. I sit and realize that I will not forget that moment (I haven’t) even though I don’t know what makes it memorable, not at that moment and not now, remembering it.

A few months ago, after I dropped a friend off at the Denver Airport (DIA) I drove home on a semi-familiar freeway (though, in Colorado, it is always called “the Interstate;” California changed me). The city of my youth had vanished, swallowed up by some other place, under so many other people who think they know Denver, who think they belong to Colorado. The rising sun hit the peaks of the Front Range in a very familiar way. The mountains spoke (as always) asserting their immutability (but they’re not immutable — I now know there was even, once, another range of Rocky Mountains)

The only playground is my self, my physical being, my senses, my mind. The Sunday morning Denver streets, 11 am, on which I walked/ran down to Meiningers Art Supply were already changing even as I tripped along them toward Arches cold pressed water color paper back in 1980. The paper would change (I’d paint on it). The molecules in everything are blasting away constantly and all that hold them together is my consciousness. And nostalgia.

My City Was Gone

Dostoyevsky Said this about a Good Memory from Childhood

One good memory from childhood could save a man’s soul… I think he was right. Judy Dykstra Brown invited me to write on the subject of childhood memories and list ten good memories from my childhood so…

1. “The best pancakes in the world are at the depot,” said dad, waking up his sleeping kids. “You can wear your pajamas. Come on!” And it was THIS station and who knows? It could’ve been THIS day!

Union Station, Denver CO 1957

Union Station, Denver CO 1957

2. “Let’s go mail letters, MAK. Get your bike.” I got my bike (I was six) and my dad got his and we rode our bikes to the mailbox.

3. “Here’s your new brother. You must take care of him.” Suddenly there was a baby on my lap. I wasn’t much more than a baby myself, only 22 months older than the sleeping bundle wrapped in yellow blankets.

4. “The good Lord knows who should have girls and who shouldn’t,” said my grandmother combing the tangles out from my long hair in the back where I could neither reach nor see. “Your Aunt Jo has two boys and that’s as it should be.” She braided my hair. “You come down every day and I’ll fix your hair, Martha Ann.”

5. I ran across the field of golden grass, a big brown paper supermarket bag open behind me. When I stopped at the big oak tree, to collect some of its golden leaves for a school project, I saw the bag was filled with seeds it had harvested as I ran.

6. “Martha Ann, do you want to come out with me and get the eggs?” I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. It was still dark and cold in the living room of my grandma’s house where I was sleeping on two easy chairs pushed together. Of course I wanted to. I’d do anything with this woman whom I’ve grown up to resemble, who gave me her white, white hair. “Come on. Put on your coat and boots.” And out we went into the December Montana morning.

7. “Sometimes we have bad days, honey, and people are mean to us. Your cousins were mean to you today. They shouldn’t have taken your doll. They don’t understand that you love your doll.”

“Am I really a sissy, Aunt Jo?”

“No, honey. You’re a brave little girl. Here’s what I do when people are mean to me and I have a bad day. I go by myself and count my blessings.”

“What’s that?”

“You count all the things you are happy about, all the good things and things you’re grateful for. I’ll start. I’m grateful that you are here spending the summer with us. I never had a little girl and now you’re my little girl until your mom and dad come home. Your turn.”

1

Here’s my doll today. She lives with my step-grand-daughter. In this picture, my step-grand-daughter had just had a meltdown and went to tell my doll all about it. Another blessing for me to count!

 8. My dad was ill and not getting better. I knew he would not get better. I went to the VA hospital with him one afternoon and I know he got bad news from what he told me. When I got home, I had to get ready for my softball game. I lived for baseball, but this was the best we had because we were girls. I played center field. Most of the other girls couldn’t play very well so no one ever hit the ball out where I was. I stood in the sunlight sucking on my glove. Then I saw my mom and dad had come to the game. They were setting up a chair under a tree for my dad. My team was up. I hit one home run after another — six in all — just in that one inning because my dad was there and he was watching the game. The pitcher started rolling the ball over the plate, trying to walk me, the only way they’d ever get up to bat again. When we were finally out and I went back out to field nothing, my mom and dad left.

9. “Those are the mountains, MAK.” I looked over my dad’s ear at the far away blue shapes on the horizon and never forgot.

10. “Let’s go play catch, MAK, as soon as you’re done with the dishes.” I would give almost anything to have that chance again.

Best Preteen Memories

Going to See the Dalai Lama

Any halfway decent physical journey will be an emotional one. Many who like to travel go out seeking transformation. Some philosopher guy wrote somewhere something like, “To travel is to be born and to die every minute.” I don’t remember who; I just remember what. Some people travel to far away countries and never leave home.

I’ve done a bit of traveling to faraway places, but some of the most transformational journeys did not involve leaving town. When I was in my 20s I desperately wanted to get out of Denver and see the world. I was profoundly influenced as a child by a couple of books and watching Lowell Thomas Presents. I remember watching him meet the Dalai Lama and thinking, “Wow, that’s about as faraway as it’s possible to go. I want to go that faraway someday.”

But there I was, stuck in Denver, working an office job, plodding through life, waiting for something to happen, not knowing how to make things happen, and not even knowing what WAS happening all around me. Some great stuff was happening, but I couldn’t see it. I was single-focused blind on SOMETHING SOMEWHERE SOMETIME in spite of the good reminders left in coffeehouse toilets saying, “Pee here now!” (Sartre) One afternoon, a friend, the secretary of an amazing man, Ved (Ved was actually trying to date me but he was so far away on a completely other plane that I didn’t notice that’s what he was doing) called to say Ved had gotten us tickets to see the Dalai Lama, that very night. There was a reception and then the Dalai Lama would be speaking. What? In Denver?

We went.

He had been invited by the Naropa Institute and the University of Denver College of Law (where Ved was a professor). At that time, the Dalai Lama didn’t speak English, so he had an interpreter. People who wanted to ask him questions wrote them on index cards so they could be translated. He would answer them after his talk. He spoke and his interpreter shared the Dalai Lama’s words with us. It was a great speech. He spoke about being discovered to be the Dalai Lama when he was a baby and moving with his family from China to Tibet to start learning his job. He spoke about finding one’s way through the dark forest of life. He said that each person has his/her own unique way through this forest and it is one of our life’s purposes to find that road. He said no one can tell us what our road will be, that finding the road is why we are alive. He then spoke about having left Tibet and rebuilding the community in Ladakh, in India. He spoke at length about the political situation in Tibet — in those days, 1980, it was very, very dark and the People’s Republic of China had only begun digging itself out from under the detritus of the Cultural Revolution.

I did not know that, in just a couple of years, I would live in China, but I wanted to. I was studying Chinese. My teacher was an English professor from Beijing Technological Institute who was studying at the university from which I’d just earned my MA. It was clear to me that the Dalai Lama’s agenda was creating sympathy for Tibet much more than giving spiritual guidance to people in the audience. His spiritual message was clear; it was every man for himself in that regard. He couldn’t tell anyone what to do.

He was right.

The time for questions came and each question was a version of “What is the way?” He looked through several cards and said, “You are all asking me what is the way. I have said I cannot tell you your way. That is why you are alive. You must find your way.” Then there was a question about Tibet and then this trick question, “What did you learn when you left China and moved to Tibet?” It was another way of asking, “What is the way?” The Dalai Lama laughed. His eyes sparkled. He grinned. He answered, “Tibetan.” Then he giggled.

That night I spoke on the phone with my Chinese teacher and told him about what the Dalai Lama said about the Chinese invasion of Tibet. My teacher had the Chinese line down pat. “They were living in poverty, very backward, living in superstition. All their wealth went into the monasteries who took from the people and gave nothing back.”

I didn’t disagree with my teacher, but I thought, “I imagine the people thought they got something back.” I didn’t know, but it seemed they loved their Dalai Lama and had a right to be whatever they wanted to be, even if it was backward, ignorant and superstitious.

I did all this traveling in the space of two and one half linear miles. Interestingly, within that same distance, a few months later, I also met Lowell Thomas. And, on a Colorado ski slope 70 miles away, the very next winter, I met Sir Edmund Hillary.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/journey/

My City Was Gone

I was young once and it doesn’t seem all that long ago. Thirty years ago? I’d say that would be about right. Thirty, thirty-five years ago I lived in Denver, Colorado. I was restless, eager for change, filled with wanderlust. I wanted a bigger world; I wanted a thing I called “exposure.” I wanted to see things. Denver frustrated me. It was ALMOST a city but not really. Not like I’d seen many cities at that point — it was all ahead of me. Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Zürich, Milan, Venice, Munich, Paris (the airport…). I didn’t think anything would ever happen.

Still and all, I loved my city. I loved that it was only a short drive to open space; I loved that I could get in my VW Bug and head up over Loveland Pass and stop at A-Basin and ski all day for 20 bucks and come home in NO traffic. I loved that if I were feeling restless I could take off and drive up Lookout Mountain. I loved that I could walk to the Art Museum (though I wished it had more art). I was as happy as possible for a bird who needed to fledge but was stuck in a nest. Sure I published some stuff and had a one woman show of my paintings, but still. WHERE WAS THE WORLD???

Secondary Characteristics

Me in front of my painting, “Secondary Characteristics” Cafe Nepenthes, Denver, March, 1981

I sent out feelers all the time — and when a school in China invited me to come and teach I went, never expecting that I would miss the mountains. The front range of the Rockies, as seen from Denver, had been my friends all my life. “Look, MAK,” said my dad as he held me up to look west when I was 2 years old, “those are mountains.” Mt. Evans, in particular, was a beauty, the love for which I shared with my precious Aunt Martha. My own favorite was Longs Peak. Once in China, I missed the mountains though there was no disputing that watching water buffalo and teaching English beat everything I’d known so far. I got to experience life in a vastly different language and political system. I loved it. I’d been right about myself, but still, home was home…

I returned, did some great things in Denver not long after I got back, but the marriage (hopeless but still…) catapulted me to California where I’d never wanted to live. And there I stayed for 30 years. More exposure, more cities, loves and work and teaching and small hills that taught me to see, nothing bad about it. I would not have missed it. A couple of visits “home” but…

You can’t go home again. Denver, as I knew it and belonged in it, is gone. It was so clear to me after I dropped off a friend at Denver International Airport and then headed down to friends in Colorado Springs. I drove toward the mountains and the freeway (on which I’d learned to drive on freeways) imagining a young woman just getting up, going into her kitchen and making a smoothie she’d then take into the bathroom. She’d shower, dry her hair, drink her smoothie, get ready for her job as a paralegal in a large Denver law firm. I imagined the young woman leaving her apartment, locking the door, and heading out down 13th Street, across the Capital lawn, and down 17th street. The grass would be frosty-crunchy and the sunrise would climb up the faces of Mt. Evans and Longs Peak. I imagined coming out of a side street, walking up to the young woman and saying, “You WILL see things. You will have a lot of adventures — some happy, some not. You’ll love and be loved. You’ll do all the things you’re dreaming of today. Relax in that knowledge, please, and love this moment because you — as you are today — and this city — as it is today — will be gone before you know it.” Then I would give the young woman a hug and vanish.

Denver_skyline_IMG_4435_favorite_wResized

Then (1977)

1000

Now (2014)

At that moment, Mohammed’s Radio played this song and I cried as long as it lasted, for my lost youth and my lost city and in gratitude for fulfilled dreams and for new ones.

Interestingly, Chrissie Hynde is my age.